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Three players offer triple-play in France.

The TV climate in France provides the perfect backdrop for fledgling IPTV services, because neither cable nor satellite are very large factors in the country's TV landscape.

Due to the cable networks' limited reach and the fact that most cities don't allow receiving satellite dishes to be installed, more than two-thirds of French households have access to only six or so terrestrial TV channels. This leaves a large opening for multi-channel IPTV services, and companies have taken note. The top three IPTV operators are France Telecom, FREE and Neuf Telecom.

FREE bundles broadband, unlimited VoIP and IPTV into one low-priced package. Neuf has an unbundled package, which allows users to add VoIP or IPTV onto broadband services. France Telecom offers its MaLigne-TV IPTV service as a stand-alone deal. All three offer content from satellite providers TPS and CanalSat.

Establishing itself as the most cost-effective voice, data and video broadband service provider in France has helped FREE--a subsidiary of Iliad Group, a dial-up and broadband ISP in France--become the second most popular DSL (i.e. telephone technology) Triple-Play service provider in France (after France Telecom), primarily by word of mouth.

Though company officials would not return calls, VideoAge learned that, in the first quarter of 2005, FREE added 150,000 general subscribers, bringing it to a total of 1.2 million, or 17 percent of the French broadband market. The company had expected to break even by the middle of this year and to have 1.4 million subscribers by the end of 2005. The company currently has about 450,000 IPTV-capable subscribers, with about 96,000 paying for premium TV services (its biggest competitor, France Telecom, boasts 130,000 subscribers to its premium TV channels).

Reportedly, FREE was the first company in France to enter the Digital Subscriber Line 2+ (advanced DSL technology) market. It is also the only operator to offer bouquets from the AB Groupe of French satellite channels.

FREE launched as an ISP in 1999, offering users free dial-up Internet service (which gave the company its name). In 2002, it became a broadband Internet service provider.

In July 2003, FREE introduced its Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) service, providing voice communications throughout France. In November 2003, FREE added an IPTV service, and customers can now receive all three offerings (IPTV, broadband Internet and VoIP) for the original 29.99 euro price. The initial offering included 30 basic TV channels, along with another 24 premium channels. Today, the same basic fee from FREE covers the monthly charge, modern and set-top box (called the Freebox) rental and a basic offering of 92 TV channels (at a substantially lower price than its competitors'). In addition, viewers can opt for several a-la-carte channels, including BBC World, MTV and AB bouquets. FREE now reaches Paris, Aix-en-Province, Besancon, Bordeaux, Caen, Dijon, Grenoble, Lille, Lyons, Marseilles, Montpellier, Nancy, Nantes, Nice, Rennes, Rouen, Strasbourg and Toulouse.
Package Channels Price/Month

Basic 92 included
Optional 28 .25 [euro] - 4.99 [euro]
Packs 28 nine packs of 2 to 10
 channels from 1.95 [euro]
 to 14.99 [euro]

CanalSat (as part of FREE package)

Thematic 59 18.99 [euro]
Family 64 20.00 [euro]
Cinema 68 20.00 [euro]
Spectacle 73 20.00 [euro]

Total residential ARPU ([euro]/year)

 Telecom Services Video Services

Mar 04 806 102 908
Jun 04 802 109 911
Sep 04 805 98 903
Dec 04 829 96 925
Mar 05 828 82 910

Note: Table made from bar graph.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:IP Television Revolution
Publication:Video Age International
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Oct 1, 2005
Previous Article:Hong Kong rules Far East's new IPTV service.
Next Article:IPTV business model is all a question of MG.

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